Verse and Transmutation

A Corpus of Middle English Alchemical Poetry (Critical Editions and Studies)


Verse and Transmutation: A Corpus of Middle English Alchemical Poetry identifies and investigates a corpus of twenty-one anonymous recipes for the philosophers’ stone dating from the fifteenth century. These were circulated and received in association with each other until the mid-seventeenth century, when a number of them appeared in Elias Ashmole’s Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum.

These editions are the first to make this previously unidentified corpus available to researchers. The accompanying studies discover the complex histories of these alchemica, in plain and illuminated manuscripts, as anonyma and in attribution to famous authors, and in private and institutional, medical and academic book collections. Together, they offer novel insights into the role of alchemy and poetry in late medieval and early modern England.
Open Access


Open Access

Biographical Note

Anke Timmermann, Ph.D. (Cantab. 2007), is a historian of science and Munby Fellow in Bibliography at Cambridge University Library (2013-14). Her publications include various articles on medieval and early modern alchemy and medicine, scientific poetry and historical manuscripts.

Review Quotes

"[...] an impressive statement that can hardly be summarized in a few sentences. The book is fluently written and easy to read [...]. This publication can be recommended both to the experienced reader interested in the history of science and its educational traditions or in alchemical poetry and its transmission and as a starting point for the beginner who shares the same interests."
Erik Leibenguth in: Isis Volume 106, Number 2, June 2015

"This is a new and sorely needed perspective, complementing other approaches. [...] Timmermann [...] constructs an illustrative and convincing narrative of how the text were perceived, pondered, used and rewritten over the course of two hundred years. [...] The book is rounded out by critical editions of the main text and diplomatic transcriptions of the more peripheral members of the corpus. With so few edited alchemical texts in Middle English available, these editions are very welcome."
Peter J. Grund, Univ. Kansas, in Speculum Vol. 90, Iss. 3, pp. 859-860, July 2015


All interested in the history of medieval and early modern science, alchemy and medicine; Middle English textual culture; manuscript production, illustration, reader reception, note taking techniques, authorial attributions and historical libraries.


Collection Information